It is the final that nobody predicted. After two nights of high drama in Spain, Bayern Munich upset Real Madrid in an enthralling encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu to set up an unexpected Champions League final showdown with Chelsea, which shocked the footballing world by ending Barcelona's reign at Camp Nou the night before.
Consequently, the Bavarians will now have home advantage in next month's tournament decider at the Allianz Arena as they go in search of their fifth European Cup success. Chelsea, by contrast, will be out to claim its first, after suffering a heart-breaking defeat on penalties against Manchester United in the 2008 final.
It promises to be quite a game because, as we've outlined below, these two sides have both demonstrated remarkable class and resilience in booking their place in the club game's showpiece event.
Bayern Munich had to go through the playoffs to qualify for the tournament proper, and it did so by dispatching FC Zurich 3-0 on aggregate. There were more hurdles to come for the Bavarians as they were drawn into Group A, labeled the 'Group of Death'. But they swept past their two closest rivals at home, beating Manchester City 2-0 and Napoli 3-2, and a double over Villarreal coupled with a draw at San Paolo against the Partenopei confirmed their place at the top of the section. A 2-0 loss at City on matchday six when they had already qualified as group winners was their only blemish.
The trend of overcoming obstacles continued for Jupp Heynckes' side after it crashed to a 1-0 defeat at Basel in the first leg of the last 16. But the club responded in style in the home game, annihilating the Swiss outfit 7-0 to record the biggest single game margin of victory in the knockout phase of the Champions League. There were to be no more shocks in the quarterfinals as the Germans swept past Marseille 4-0 on aggregate to set up a mammoth semifinal showdown with Real Madrid.
Bayern went into the tie as underdogs but it was much the better side in the first leg and was good value for its 2-1 victory at the Allianz Arena, which came courtesy of a later winner from Mario Gomez. The Bavarians endured a nightmare start to the return fixture at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the opening 14 minutes, with Cristiano Ronaldo firing home from the penalty spot before then slotting the ball past Manuel Neuer.
However, Heynckes' troops drew level on 3-3 aggregate with a penalty of their own, through Arjen Robben, and then, after the game had gone all the way to penalties, Bastian Schweinsteiger stepped up to decide a gripping shootout in the visitors' favor.
Chelsea's patchy form in the group stage almost saw the English club miss out on the knockout rounds, despite qualifying as Group E victors. The team looked to be on the right path after two wins in its first three games, but a surprise 1-1 draw in Genk followed by a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen put its qualification under threat. However, a 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge over Valencia on matchday six in a must-win encounter propelled the Blues into the next phase.
In the last 16, again Chelsea looked to be heading prematurely for the exit door after crashing to a 3-1 first-leg loss at Napoli. But Roberto Di Matteo was installed as the interim manager to replace the sacked Andre Villas-Boas just before the second leg, and the Blues turned the tie around in stunning fashion to claim a 5-4 aggregate win. Their resurgence continued in the quarterfinals when they earned a 1-0 victory at Benfica in the away leg before wrapping up the tie with a nervy 2-1 success at Stamford Bridge.
Few gave Chelsea much chance of defeating reigning champion Barcelona in the semifinals but Blues fans dared to dream after a shock 1-0 victory over the Catalans at Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba scoring the only goal of the game as a wonderful defensive effort - and no small amount of luck - decided the game in the hosts' favour.
Even then, it was expected that Barca would turn the tie around on home soil and when the Spanish giants moved 2-0 up towards the tail end of the first half in Catalunya shortly after John Terry's dismissal, it appeared that Chelsea might be on the receiving end of a bad beating. However, Ramires produced the most sublime finish on the stroke of halftime to put the visitors ahead on the away goals rule. Barcelona battered 10-man Chelsea in the second half but Lionel Messi missed a penalty and Pep Guardiola's men slowly began to run out of ideas. Fernando Torres then sealed Chelsea's place in the final when he broke clear to score in the dying seconds. After such a stunning upset, few will now dare betting against the Blues in next month's final in Munich - even if they will be without several key players through suspension.